The Natural Beekeeping Trust are endeavouring to change this approach, and today I went to an event at their Bee Classroom in Ashurst Wood, Sussex to find out about the different hive systems that can be used. I currently use a National which is a square box full of frames that can be inspected and harvested effeciently and easily, but it is not necessarily the conditions that the bees would choose to live in!
We looked at a number of different hives:
|Einraumbeute or One Room Hive|
|Top Bar Hive|
|Warre Hive (sitting atop a painted National!)|
|The new Sun Hive|
The trustees who took the course were very inspirational and I would urge anyone reading my blog to try to make sure they purchase local, ethically produced honey, preferably early in the season so the bees have a chance to recoup their stores before winter, as standard practice is to strip the hive of honey in late summer and feed the bees sugar syrup to replenish their supplies. I don't think this is fair! I always leave enough honey for them to overwinter with and although I do sell the honey from my hives, I keep a decent amount back to ensure that I can feed them their own honey (slightly diluted) should the need arise. Such honey does command a higher price, but you will be supporting a sustainable and vitally important process: investing in bee colonies that will be provided with the resources to live long, productive and healthy lives.
I do hope my colonies make it through the winter as I am keen to see how they fare on less intervention over the summer. I will have to wait a few more months before they get going, and that depends on their Varroa load which unfortunately is high. Fingers crossed I will have some bees to watch come April.